What’s Really Important?

by Alena Tauriainen writing as Alena Wendall @alenawendall

I remember hosting my very first Thanksgiving dinner. Fyi..the following is a perfect disaster scenario for someone’s story.

I should explain a little a bit about my family. My parents are from the islands and I was raised on typical Trinidadian foods. Hence, our Thanksgiving dinner looked a little different than those in the states. Okay, to be truthful, a lot different. We served things like macaroni pie, plantains, and rice. There was always rice.

My husband’s family is from Finland and they opt for a traditional Thanksgiving. Turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans and, of course, my mother-in-law’s famous stuffing.

Did I mention at that time I had never cooked for both families like that before?

That day, I woke up super excited and determined that everything was going to be perfect. I had my step-mom and my mother-in-law in the kitchen with me. Both had an opinion on everything I did that day. EVERYTHING.

Did I mention I was pregnant at the time?

I thought I was doing great. We were close. I was plating all the big items for the meal. I was listening, nodding, and smiling. Then it hit.

Did you see that emotion zing across the kitchen? No? It was that fast.

When someone told me how to pour the rice into the serving dish, I lost it. Unequivocally lost it. One minute, I was pouring rice, and the next, I was in the bathroom crying.

All I remembered was my husband appearing in our bathroom. He just stood there until I was ready. He never said a word about me crying. Just waited. Smart man.

Later that afternoon, after all the food was eaten, leftovers bagged and put away and we were on our second round of dessert, both of my sisters-in-law started laughing. I didn’t know what was funny. I didn’t think I’d missed a joke but apparently, I had.

They said that they knew it was going to hit the fan, so they deliberately stayed outside. Smart women for sure!

I bring up that story because if I’d taken a moment before all of the craziness to reflect on what was truly important—time with family, laughing, joking, eating—then I wouldn’t have been so wound up about everything being perfect.

Thanksgiving is a time of reflecting on the blessings in your life. Being thankful. Sure, we look forward to the meal, but really, whether you make a baked turkey, a smoked turkey or a fried turkey—it doesn’t matter. Paper products versus real dishes, freshly made rolls versus store-bought—those things aren’t deal breakers, not if you remember what’s really important.

So, before the craziness starts…take a moment to reflect.

Then when the green beans are over-cooked, or some very helpful family member tells you for the thirtieth time how to do something, you will have the patience to let it go. Because you will be smarter than I was that Thanksgiving, and you will remember to focus on what’s truly important.

Oh, and if I had to give one extra tip for a happy Thanksgiving dinner? Delegate. Get those in-laws and siblings to bring something and/or put them in charge of something. Share the load. Share the fun.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tweet: What’s Really Important? #Thanksgiving thoughts by @alenawendall via @NovelAcademy https://ctt.ec/J2hEv+

Tweet: Thanksgiving is a time of reflecting on the blessings in your life. Being #thankful. by @alenawendall via NovelAcademy #gratitude https://ctt.ec/3ckfL+

~*~

Writing as Alena Wendall, Alena Tauriainen pens contemporary Christian romance novels that always end with a happily ever after. By day, she partners with her lifelong mate Clyde, to run the family HVAC business. She manages both business and family life with four lovable but crazy kids. She is the Retreats Coordinator for My Book Therapy. She is represented by Rachelle Gardner with Books & Such Literary Management. Visit her at alenawendall.com.

 

 

 

How the 4 Reasons People Read Help You Change The World

It was a rough weekend, wasn’t it?

Hard to process the ongoing tragedy, the idea of someone again so coldly, painfully hurting, killing so many innocent people.

It just takes the wind out of us, collectively, and privately.

I was watching the news last night, trying to process and pray for all the victims in the Texas church shooting tragedy when I got a text telling me a friend I’d known since high school had passed away. She was my age and left behind a son and a husband.

My heart is breaking, for our nation. For my friend’s family.

All I know is that this is not the end of the story.

I’m not going to debate theology on the question of where was God when life turned tragic. That’s a bigger conversation. Let’s talk about writing and story and why it matters when things like this happen.

People typically read novels for three reasons: Entertainment, Escape and Enlightenment. Historically, stories (books, movies, plays) rise when life gets hard. In the Soviet Union, reading and movie going was a huge pastime during the cold war era. Why? Because stories offer a glimpse at hope, meaning, even escape in the tragedy. In stories (well, most of them), although there is loss, there is also triumph.

Redemption.

Hope.

A glimpse at a happy ending.

I strive to put all those “E’s” into my stories. Still, the recent events have reminded me that there is another “E” that people need as they read: Enrichment. I love this word. (it’s so overworked, it’s lost its meaning) Synonyms include: preparation, regeneration, nurturing, elevation.

Enrichment is diving into the heart and soul of the reader and giving them something that matters. Truth. Hope.

I was in church yesterday, chatting with a woman who was frustrated with her book club because they often read books on the national best-seller lists, but that left her feeling empty, angry and discouraged. They even read 50 Shades of Gray, saying, this was part of being a “mature” reader.

Reminded me of junior high school when someone would say, “Don’t be a pansy. A little weed won’t hurt you.” Maybe not. But maybe yes. I have one body, one brain and little time. Why would I put something in my body designed to destroy it?

Being a mature reader doesn’t mean I have to put darkness in my head.

I can handle gritty. I can handle pain. I just want to be reminded of hope in the end.

I want to be elevated. Nurtured. Maybe even a little regenerated. Enriched.

Sure, this isn’t every reader. But in a world filled with hurt and darkness and tragedy, maybe we should try to do more than entertain (nothing wrong with that, by the way—I loved Thor!) and enlighten, and even help them escape. Let’s leave them with truth, hope and a reminder that there is a different ending to the story than the world wants to tell us.

Your story matters. The world needs it.

Keep writing.

 

Susie May

P.S. Are you the kind of person who wants to dig deep into your story, find the truths and metaphors and character journeys that will make your story matter to readers? That will entertain, enlighten, help them escape and enrich their lives. Then you might want to join us for our annual Deep Thinker’s Retreat this February in Florida. (February 23-27, 2018) Learn, brainstorm, write, get feedback…create a story that matters.

The Starting Point for your Character’s Inner Journey

I am up north at the writing cabin this week, getting ready for next week’s Deep Woods Writing Camp.

It’s gorgeous here, quiet and last night I was able to catch up on one of my television indulgences, Blue Bloods. In the season premier, wise police commish Frank Reagan sat at the dinner table and talked about the loss of one of the main characters in a freak accident (I’m not telling you who). He said, essentially, that we sit for a while at the table, sharing the journey with our fellow hungerers, and it’s during this ‘meal’ we make an impact. When we leave, our empty chair is noticed, and not easily filled.

We sit among the hungry.

The book business can be overwhelming. I do a lot of “sample downloading” before a trip, then read through the samples to find the books I’m going to relax with on the plane, or on a boat, waiting to dive, or even early in the morning, on the beach. I’m picky with my time, my content…I want a book that will entertain, help me escape and leave me feeling nourished. The books that linger with me are those that leave me strangely healed, at least for the moment.

Healed. It’s not like I walk around with gaping wounds, but like everyone, I have little lies, painful emotional nicks and scratches and when I read a book filled with truth, whether it’s a romance, or general fiction, or suspense, I feel as if I’ve been fed. Someone at the table has offered me a morsel of nourishment on the journey.

Why are we here? More importantly, why do we write?

We sit among the hungry.

I attended a women’s retreat last weekend, and the speaker pointed out Matthew 9:36. When he [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Harassed. Helpless.

Hungry.

Hungry for grace. Hungry for forgiveness. Hungry for Hope. Hungry for love.

What have you hungered for? What has nourished you?

Grace? Hope? Redemption?

If you’ve hungered for grace—write a story about grace. If you ached for second chances—write a story of redemption. If you are hungry for hope…you get the picture.

Because if you hunger for it, so do others.

(and by the way, giving your character a hunger is the starting point for understanding his/her inner journey!)

Your job in this world, and especially as a novelist, is to pass the potatoes–to nourish those at your table with the nourishment you’ve been given.

Your seat at the table matters. Your story matters.

Go, write something brilliant.

Susie May

P.S. We are all about going deep in a novel, to understanding not just the plot and characters, but the life-changing themes a novelist layers into their work. If you want to learn how to write books that change lives, then you’re a good fit for our annual Deep Thinker’s Retreat in Florida, Feb 23-27. We just opened registration. Payment plans available. Click HERE for more details.

When I Can’t Becomes I Can

by Kariss Lynch, @karisslynch

In high school, my band director erased can’t from my vocabulary. We had been a championship band, a finalist in the state for 4A high schools. But after two years, of mediocre performances, we were left wondering if we were has-beens that had become wanna-bes.

But he never settled for defeat. He delighted in giving us the most challenging routines and music while watching us rise to the occasion. And he tolerated nothing less than our absolute best, knowing that our greatest potential often lay just below our valid but weak excuses. It took training. Sweltering hours on pavement in Texas weather, running the routine over and over again until our clothes clung to sweaty frames. Then we hit the classroom, fingers meticulously skipping over the keys until we knew every note by heart and could play it standing or running in rhythm.

I remember trying and trying to get a note set correct and failing miserably (in front of fifty of my peers, by the way) on more than one occasion. After the fifth time, I quit trying.

“I can’t do it.”

“I’m sorry, what?”

“I can’t do it, Mr. C.”

“I don’t understand that word. Try again.”

It’s amazing what I came up with in the absence of that word. I’m having trouble. This is hard. How in the world do I do this? I don’t know how. But not one of those gave me the option to stop trying. And every excuse carried with it the opportunity to discover a new journey in the struggle.

He never let me quit in the classroom or on the marching field. Slow down, sure. Take each note one finger at a time, yep. But NEVER quit. Because he knew I could conquer the struggle if I set my mind to it, no matter the challenge.

Success lay just below the I can’ts just waiting to come to fruition with the acknowledgment of “I can…somehow.” And that lesson has shaped my writing journey. Rejections became detours. Can’ts became other challenges to conquer.

There have been many moments that I have been tempted to say “I can’t” in the middle of writing or editing or even marketing. But somehow, I meet the deadline every time, proud of the finished product.

Much like with marching or learning music, I keep writing until the words become an extension and enhancement of the story instead of simply an exploration to jog my creativity. Every time I finish, I know I CAN. I just have to discover HOW. I determined that I wanted it much more than I feared it.

Talent and passion may come naturally. But success as a result of those attributes NEVER comes without hard work and a willingness to push past rejection, defeat, and redirection. As soon as you purge the excuses, the story blooms, and it’s only a matter of time before others outside your circle begin to notice the beauty of the finished product.

By the way, when we purged the excuses, our band went on to place first in every competition that season and ended the semester and my high school career as 4A Texas State Champions.

This thing you keep attempting that you think is impossible? That next step you aren’t sure about? They’re possible. It just takes placing one foot in front of the other until you see the results.

TWEETABLES:

Tweet: When I can’t becomes I can by @KarissLynch via @NovelAcademy #writing #encouragement https://ctt.ec/906Gs+

Tweet: “Every time I finish, I know I CAN. I just have to discover HOW.” by @KarissLynch via @NovelAcademy #writing https://ctt.ec/2d6XL+

~*~

Kariss Lynch writes contemporary romance about characters with big dreams, adventurous hearts, and enduring hope. She is the author of the Heart of a Warrior series and loves to encourage her readers to have courage. In her free time, she hangs out with her family and friends, explores the great outdoors, and tries not to plot five stories at once. Connect with her at karisslynch.com, or on Facebook, Instagram, or Goodreads.